Every parent wants their children to grow up healthy and happy. It’s no surprise that many parents worry about drug abuse among youth – both their own children and their peers. Preventing drug use isn’t just an issue for parents; healthy and happy youth are a crucial component of a healthy community. Here, we’ll take a look at drug use and addiction in youth and offer some best practices to prevent drug abuse among youth in your family and community.

Youth Drug Abuse and Addiction

A recent survey showed that 13% of 8th graders, 30% of 10th graders, and 40% of 10th graders had reported using a drug at least once in the past year. That seems dire, but only around 4% of youth experience addiction, meaning that most youth drug use is casual and/or experimental. The most-used drug among youth surveyed was marijuana, but some youth also reported using amphetamines and opioids.

From the survey data listed above, we can see that it’s important to implement some prevention measures for young people before they reach junior high school. Comparing those drug use rates with rates of addiction, we can find some hope that drug abuse among youth can be prevented within family and community settings. For youth who struggle with addiction, there is still hope! Youth experiencing addiction can find help through inpatient, intensive outpatient, and community-based outpatient treatment specifically designed to help young people recover.

Start the Conversation Early

Finding balance in your parenting can be a challenge. We instinctively want to protect our children from “bad influences” they might experience with friends at school and outside of the home – and our supervision. But the best way to prevent drug abuse among youth is to start the conversation early. Beginning conversations about making healthy, independent choices in early childhood can prepare your child for more complex conversations about substance and drug use as they grow. 

It’s important to keep communication open and honest between parent and child by building and maintaining trust. Trust in a parent-child relationship is a two-way street! Be sure to build confidence in your child by involving them in the conversation and encouraging them to ask questions about what they might see and hear in school and community settings as well as in the media they consume. By middle school, you should be thinking about how you will approach and address drug use with your child.

Risk Factors for Teen Drug Abuse

Many factors contribute to whether a teen uses or misuses drugs. Some of these factors are largely outside of your and your child’s control, such as:

  • Family history of substance abuse and/or addiction
  • Mental or behavioral health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or ADHD
  • Childhood trauma ranging from car accidents to abuse

Some factors can be influenced with some effort, such as:

  • Impulsive or risk-taking behavior
  • Low self-esteem or feelings of social rejection
  • Social pressure to fit in

These risk factors don’t mean your child is destined to abuse drugs! They simply indicate an increased risk of drug use. If your child fits into one or more of these categories, take care to start an ongoing conversation early.

Having the Talk About Drug Abuse

You don’t want your teen to feel defensive or embarrassed about an open conversation about drug use – or to feel like they’re being lectured!

Don’t start your conversation:

  • During an argument or time of high emotional stress
  • Immediately after you’ve “caught” your teen using drugs
  • In public or in front of friends (yours or theirs)

Do start your conversation by:

  • Asking and listening to your child’s views and opinions on drug use
  • Discussing how drug use could impact what is important to your child – such as health, appearance, driving, and sports
  • Asking and considering what messages your child is getting about drug use from friends, the community, and the media they consume
  • Brainstorming ways to resist peer pressure and safely exit dangerous situations
  • Preparing to discuss – openly and honestly – your own experiences with drug use and how and why you avoid drug use

It’s important to keep this conversation open and productive. Make sure you do a good job of listening to your child and ensuring that your child knows your door is open at all times to provide a listening ear, advice, and help when they need it.

Seeking Help for Youth Drug Abuse and Addiction

If you, your child, or someone you know is experiencing addiction or ready to begin (or re-start) your journey to life-long recovery, Palmetto is here to help. We offer a wide range of addiction recovery services and individualized recovery plans led by caring certified medical and mental health professionals. Call us today to learn about the resources available to help you and your loved ones recover from addiction and harmful drug misuse.